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Funny Car Points Leader J.R. Todd, DHL Team Off to Great Start

The season is off to a pretty good start for J.R. Todd and his DHL Toyota team, and that’s putting it lightly. Todd joined teammate Shawn Langdon in the winner’s circle at the season-opening race and “doubled up” for the first time in Kalitta Motorsports history. Next on the to-do list is continuing that success in Southern California. The 2024 NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing Season resumes March 22-24, 2024, at the Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals in Pomona, Calif.

Raceday was certainly eventful for the 2018 Funny Car champ. The first three rounds did not go as planned – the DHL team could easily have been eliminated in any of them, but to borrow a college basketball tournament term, race day is all about survive and advance. The DHL team saved its best for last and raced to the finish line with a 3.88-second effort to defeat Austin Prock, win the Gatornationals and take the first points lead of the season.

“It’s great; that’s the goal,” Todd said. “We show up to win every race. Leaving Gainesville (Fla.) as the points leader, I don’t know when the last time I was able to say that was, but it’s a long season. You want to stay up there in the top five going into the Countdown to the Championship which is a long time from now, but hopefully we can get a few more of these along the way and let it eat those last six races of the year.”

When he advanced to the Gatornationals semifinals, Todd qualified for the first Mission Foods #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge of the season – it’s a rematch of the Gatornationals semifinals during Winternationals qualifying this Saturday with cash and championship bonus points up for grabs.

“After we got by (Ron) Capps in the second round (at Gainesville), we knew we were in and that’s great,” Todd said. “Thank you to Mission for putting that up there for us; it’s a nice bonus. It’s definitely a nice incentive. When we won it in Sonoma (last summer), that was a cool perk because then we won the race on Sunday. It definitely gives you a pep in your step.”

Winning the season’s first race and being part of the first double win in team history is just about the most perfect way to start the season, and it certainly bodes well for what’s ahead in what will be an ultra-competitive Funny Car field at every race of the season. Todd has two wins in four final-round appearances at In-N-Out Burger Pomona Dragstrip; adding to those numbers this weekend would be another great step in the very early stages of the season.

“That Gainesville win definitely gives us some momentum going into Pomona, but it’s not like these guys lack confidence,” Todd added. “When we’re not running well, they still know we have an opportunity to go out and run well against these guys; they don’t beat themselves up or get down. I try to focus on doing my job because I know I need to be on kill every time because when the car’s on, I think that’s a tough combination so I try to hold up my end, and they always give me a good car. As long as we can keep going to at least the semifinals like we did late in the summer last year, I think we can set ourselves up for a great season.”

This story was originally published on March 19, 2024. Drag Illustrated

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